For 24 charities that work with New Hampshire children, Christmas came early.
The state chapter of Speedway Children's Charities distributed more than $100,000 in grants on Tuesday to organizations that serve underprivileged children throughout New England. The money goes to groups such as the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region, the Wolfeboro Area Children's Center and the YMCA of Greater Nashua. Speedway Children's Charities, affiliated with New Hampshire Motor Speedway, estimates the funds will benefit 12,000 children in need.
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Mayor Ted Gatsas and about 75 representatives from the nonprofit organizations attended a gifting ceremony in the Aldermanic Chambers in Manchester City Hall on Tuesday morning. The room, usually filled with elected officials and department heads, was packed with volunteers, children and even a few dogs affiliated with the 24 charities.
Gappens said Speedway Children's Charities goal is to increase the amount it gives each year.
"To be able to raise more than $100,000 with these economic challenges is really a great tribute to the great people in the community and the racing community," said Gappens.
Gappens said the group selected Manchester for the ceremony because its first charitable project was fixing a Manchester Little League park vandalized before the spring opener.
"I was there that day and there was no question there was a lot of vandalism. The Speedway Children's Charities really stepped up," said Gatsas.
Marcia Sink, executive director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire, said there are 100 children in Manchester alone that are in protective custody or are under the care of the court system. The group will be able to reach even more children with the money from Speedway Children's Charities, she said.
"I know that the funds we get will truly make a difference in those children's lives," said Sink.
The money was raised during this year's LENOX Industrial Tools 301 and Sylvania 300 NASCAR race weekends. Fundraisers included driver memorabilia auctions and a lobster bake. In addition, SCC partnered with the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and David's House, a home away from home for families receiving care at hospitals, to host the annual Governor's Breakfast. The event brought in more than $100,000 for these two organizations.
Matthew Hoidal, executive director of Camp Sunshine at Sebago Lake in Maine, said he learned about the SCC while attending his first NASCAR race this summer. Camp Sunshine was founded in 1986 to serve children with cancer and other serious illnesses. It offers these children and their families a week vacation at the camp free of charge.
"The funds that are going to be granted today will be used to fund two more families from New Hampshire at Camp Sunshine," said Hoidal. "They'll come together and meet 40 other families with children going though the same issues, connect with each other and find support."
Other local groups that will receive funding are City Year, which will use its grant to pay for the elementary school mentoring program in Manchester, and New Hampshire Catholic Charities, which is using the money for its Cooking Matters classes for children and teens. The program, which runs throughout the year, teaches kids the basics of healthy cooking, following a recipe and cooking on a budget, said program coordinator Becca Story.
"Some kids are cooking meals for younger siblings while their parents are at work," said Story. This program gives them the tools to cook meals that are healthy and affordable, she said.
SCC's next fund raising event is a Jan. 22 snowmobile ride along New Hampshire trails.
On the Web: newhampshire.speedwaycharities.org